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William Welch Kellogg

A short biography

William Welch Kellogg was a climate scientist who made very significant contributions to the emerging culture of climate prediction during the 1970s. He was one of the first scientists who decidedly demanded predictive modeling, the use of climate models for the simulation of future climate prediction, since the early 1970s. He also popularized as one of the first climate scientists the use and dissemination of a simple graphic representation of future climate projections. Such graphs helped to convey the message of the risk of climate warming very effectively.

Kellogg was born in New York Mills, New York. He attended the Brooks School in North Andover, Massachusetts, and graduated from Yale in 1939 with a BA in physics. Kellogg continued graduate studies at U.C., Berkeley, among others with Jakob Bjerknes as teacher, whom he reacalled as his “favorite professor at UCLA.”[1] These studies were interrupted by World War II, when he served in the Air Force's new meteorological program. As a pilot and weather officer, with a strong passion for flying, he collected some of the first data on the dynamics of thunderstorms by flying B-25s into the heart of the storms.

After the war, while working on a PhD from UCLA, he joined the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California. He completed his thesis “The Atmosphere Above 100 Kilometers” in 1949. At the RAND Corporation he became one of the leading experts and proponents of satellites for meteorological research. He developed many of the concepts still in use today. In 1964, he was invited to join the National Center for Atmospheric Research at Boulder, Colorado, as director of the Laboratory of Atmospheric Sciences. In this position he was involved in a range of research activities including air pollution and the chemistry of the atmosphere and the development of meteorological models of the higher atmosphere.

His serious interest in the investigation of climate started only in 1970s, when he became involved in the organization of the Study of Critical Environmental Problems (SCEP) in 1970, which was initiated and organized by MIT professor Carroll Wilson. In this one-month study, Kellogg led the Work Group Climatic Effects of Man’s Activities. One year later, Kellogg was one of the organizers of the international follow-up study Study of Man's Impact on Climate (SMIC) held in Sweden in 1971. The investigation of climate became Kellogg’s main focus until his retirement in 1987.[2] While Kellogg was not an activist, he was concerned about the possibility of climate warming. As contributor to the SCEP and SMIC studies and as a consultant of the World Meteorological Organization, but also as a very active lecturer and writer to public audiences he became one of the strong supporters of using climate models for predictive purposes and projecting future climate in spite of model uncertainties.

(Text: Matthias Heymann)

[1] William W. Vaughan and Dale Johnson, “Meteorological Satellites—TheVery Early Years, Prior to Launch of TIROS-1,” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 75 (December 1994), p. 2297.

[2] SCEP (Study of Critical Environmental Problems) (1970). Man's Impact on the Global Environment. Assessment and Recommendation for Action. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press;